GOP Presidential candidate holds a press conference at a shuttered shopping center in North Hollywood, California in July.
When given the chance to take a shot at his newly minted biggest rival, Herman Cain, Mitt Romney didn't pass it up at Tuesday's GOP debate. The former Massachusetts governor positioned himself as a champion of the middle class—which is why he was so adamantly opposed to 9-9-9. But when it came to an issue of serious importance for the embattled middle class—especially in Nevada, the state hit the hardest by the housing crisis—Romney punted. Rather than intervening to save underwater mortgages, Romney said, "the right course is to let markets work."
At least he's been consistent. Romney was offering a cliff-notes argument of a point he made earlier in the day, in an interview with the Las Vegas Review-Journal:
As to what to do for the housing industry specifically, are there things that you could do to encourage housing? One is: Don't try and stop the foreclosure process. Let it run its course and hit the bottom. Allow investors to buy homes, put renters in them, fix the homes up and let it turn around and come back up. The Obama administration has slow-walked the foreclosure process that has long existed, and as a result we still have a foreclosure overhang. Number two, the credit that was given to first-time home-buyers was insufficient, inadequate to turn around the housing market. I think it was an ineffective idea, it was a little bit like the Cash for Clunkers program, throwing government money at something which was not market-oriented, did not staunch the decline in home values anymore than it encouraged the auto industry to take off. I think the idea of helping people refinance homes to stay in them is one that's worth further consideration, but I'm not signing on until I know who's going to pay, and who's going to get bailed out.
Texas Governor Rick Perry wisely chose not to slug Mitt Romney at Tuesday's debate.
The most dramatic* moment at Tuesday night's GOP presidential debate came past the midway point, when Rick Perry and Mitt Romney clashed over illegal immigration. In addition to consistently referring to undocumented migrants as "illegals," Romney went on to suggest that Perry's record of job growth in Texas was comprised mostly of illegal immigrants. Romney cited a study showing that 81 percent of new jobs in Texas over the last few years went to undocumented workers.
But as Suzy Khimm explained, the study Romney is citing, from the Center for Immigration Studies, is flawed. Among other things:
Perryman points out that the study's conclusions about newly arrived immigrants in Texas aren't likely to hold true for the immigration population on the whole. By restricting its scope to immigrants who’ve arrived after 2007, the study doesn’t take into account any job losses by immigrants who came before 2007, he says. For example, if an immigrant who arrived after 2007 takes the job of a immigrant who came earlier, that still counts as a net gain in the study.
Another reason to be skeptical of CIS: It's the same group that produced a report last March supporting the debunked "terror babies" theory. According to CIS, terrorists are coming to the United States illegally to have kids who will take advantage of their American citizenship to destroy America from within.
*And by dramatic, we mean, "the moment that prompted Rick Perry to actually, physically curl his lip."
On Saturday, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) became the first GOP presidential candidate to sign a pledge from an anti-immigration group Americans for Securing the Border. Per the group's website, the pledge compels Bachmann to complete a 2,000-mile-long fence, from San Diego to Brownsville, by December 31, 2013—or 11 months into her hypothetical first term in office. It would be a double-fence, because sometimes one fence just doesn't cut it, and it will be, Bachmann says, contiguous: "It will be every mile, it will be every yard, it will be every foot, it will be every inch of that border, because that portion you fail to secure is the highway into the United States." On Tuesday at the GOP presidential debate in Nevada she doubled-down on the pledge.
Bachmann's talking a good game for the conservative primary electorate. The problem for her is that building such a fence in such a short period of time is logistically impossible—and even if we could build it, we probably wouldn't want it. Bachmann's plan is intended to serve as a counter to the actual border wall being constructed, initiated under President Bush and nearing completion under President Obama, which is a mix of both physical and virtual (involving a network of cameras and drones, among other things). In some places, the fence looks like the kind of intimidating edifice that always finds its way into campaign ads. But in some stretches, it's a lot different.
Since when did Rick Santorum become the champion of the middle class? At Tuesday's GOP presidential debate in Las Vegas (the eighth in four months, if you're scoring at home), the former Pennsylvania senator led the charge against newly crowned front-runner Herman Cain, alleging that Cain's 9-9-9 tax plan was the last thing middle-class Americans need. Prefacing his attack with the obligatory, "Herman, I like you," Santorum stated that the tax plan, which replaces the entire tax code with a 9-percent national sales tax, 9-percent income tax, and 9-percent payroll tax, would significantly raise taxes on all but the highest earners.
From there, the rest of the field piled on. Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) called the plan "regressive" because of the impact it has on low-income earners. Texas Gov. Rick Perrry, happy to see someone else become a punching bag for a change, chided Cain for adding a national sales tax on top of existing state sales taxes. And Mitt Romney, pretending not to know the answer to the question, asked Cain if the federal tax would replace all state sales taxes. When Cain told him no (that video clip will come in handy), Romney announced he was against it.
So who's right? Santorum—and it's not even close. Just check out this chart, from the non-partisan Tax Policy Institute (via Kevin Drum).
Data from Tax Policy Institute
Santorum went on to call for a renewed focus on a lack of "income mobility" in the United States, noting that it's easier to pull yourself up by the bootstraps in Europe than in the United States. So there you have it: Rick Santorum is the Zucotti Park candidate.
The tentative GOP primary schedule works just fine for Mitt Romney—which is why everyone else wants to change it.
On Tuesday, the Republican presidential candidates will gather in Las Vegas to debate the short- and long-term impacts of economic inequality and how to address themMitt Romney's Mormonism. This time, Buddy Roemer and Gary Johnson won't be the only candidates watching from home: Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman has announced he'll be skipping the event in protest of the state GOP's decision to hold its caucus on January 14, which he believes is encroaching on the rightful domain of historically first-in-the-nation New Hampshire primary. As he put it, "The New Hampshire primary is too important and the process itself is too important to be compromised."
Huntsman is saying this mostly because he's bet his entire campaign on a strong showing in the Granite State, but he isn't the only candidate to express dissatisfaction with Nevada. Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) has pledged not to contest the caucuses unless the date changes. Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum recently canceled his planned appearances in Nevada, out of respect for Iowa, New Hampshire, and Christmas. Newt Gingrich, who is reportedly still running, has also vowed not to campaign there. Pseudo-front-runner Mitt Romney, whose success depends on winning both New Hampshire and Nevada, has publicly supported the latter state's efforts, while behind the scenes his campaign lobbied for the controversial date change. Rick Perry, who has been endorsed by Nevada's GOP Gov. Brian Sandoval, has stood by the state, as well. Herman Cain has said that while he's not familiar with the specifics of the situation, he stands by Israel.*